Thursday, April 27, 2006


I had a filling put in the other day.

I haven't had an actual cavity filled in years (like, ten or fifteen). I did have to go in a year or so ago because an old filling fell OUT - and, can I just say, that's the kind of thing that is only supposed to happen to one's parents, is it not? - and there was some drilling involved, but it wasn't my fault, if you know what I mean.

I don't take particularly good care of my teeth. I brush them, except sometimes, when I'm really tired at night, I'll blow it off so that I can get into bed 1.5 minutes sooner. I don't floss too often, usually for that same reason, nor do I wear my mouth guard most nights, even though I dream, not infrequently, that I am grinding my teeth so hard that they all fall out. I put off the whole personal hygiene thing until right before I go to bed, and I stay up really late until I'm just about falling over, so some things get short shrift. (It's a good thing we put on deodorant in the mornings, is all I'm saying.)

And I, as my son would say, am a candy lover. (When he says it, it is delivered in a plaintive tone accompanied by bassett-hound eyes, as though I were keeping the love of his life locked away from him forever in the kitchen cabinet.)

But I have apparently been blessed with unusually good teeth genes. So while it was not really all that surprising that Tuesday morning found me in the dentist chair, it did feel to me a bit like my luck had run out.

(An aside to marvel at the wonder that is dental technology at the dawn of the 21st century: I imagine that my grandparents must have seen tremendous technological changes in their time on earth. Imagine going from a horse to an airplane! From radio to television! (I don't know if they ever got to play online - I doubt it.) For me, the technological advance that excites me the most - other than the move from the Walkman to the iPod - is the giant leap into the future that the medical profession has taken. I love, for example, that my x-rays are now computerized, rather than actual film that needs to be held up against a lightboard. And I'm always impressed at the oral cancer screening, the gum measurements, and other such practices that were never employed by my childhood dentist back home. I am not, however, impressed by the move from the "spit cup" and sink to me, lying on my back, having the rinse water suctioned out of my mouth. Not an efficient way to spit out toothpaste.)

This filling was a white filling, one designed to be unnoticeable (since the cavity was in one of my front molars). After the novocaine and the sleepy waiting for it to kick in (I did drift off for a bit - I'd gotten to bed late), there was the usual drilling, drilling, and more drilling. It wasn't uncomfortable until the dentist brought out this huge instrument, the drill part of which was about the size and shape of the shaft of a tire pressure gauge. He said, "this will be a little rumbly." And then proceeded to knock my head into next week. It didn't hurt, but the vibrations were incredibly powerful. My sinuses, I think, switched places. It was, I think, the approximate equivalent of having a jackhammer in one's mouth.

When it came time for the filling, I was alarmed: they inserted six pieces of metal into my mouth and then came at me with pliers and U-shaped bands. Then, after all that junk was rammed in there, they stuck what looked like a hypodermic needle filled with blue gel in my mouth, followed by a hair dryer. It was definitely the oddest filling experience I've had yet.

Once the cavity material had set and they had removed all of the various tools and metal bits from my mouth, I couldn't see the filling. Honestly - I'm not even sure which tooth it was. So I suppose it was a successful experiment.

And the novocaine wore off just after my last class of the day, so I only looked like I'd had a stroke in front of all of my students, but as soon as class was over, I looked fine.


Someday Maybe said...

I had a dentistry experience today too. I have bad dental anxiety-- dreams about my teeth crumbling, etc.-- but I also have bad teeth genes. I no longer eat candy unless I can brush right after. I just had a cleaning, and I had to self-medicate beforehand and tell the hygienist that I'm a real baby when it comes to dentistry. "Now, I have a sensitive spot down here somewhere, but I'm not sure where, and this whole upper right side is very sensitive..."

I wish I could get one of those new white fillings... but if it means having something drilled, I guess I'll stick with the old metal ones.

plain(s)feminist said...

You have to have the drilling anytime you get a filling - that's how you get the hole to put the filling in. But the white ones are slightly more expensive.